Toyota has pledged to improve its information system on vehicle claims and its defect-checking system in response to revelations that it failed to recall a defective sport utility vehicle model until after an accident in 2004 that injured five people.

In a report submitted to the government, Japan's top automaker said it will extend the storage period of information on the results of its consideration of and decisions on recall cases from the current 10 years to 20 years, Toyota officials told Kyodo News.

Even if the company deems a recall is unnecessary in some cases, the records on the consideration of it will be stored for 20 years and the vehicles in question will continue to be closely monitored, the officials said.

Toyota will also strengthen its vehicle-defect-checking system by increasing staffing at its quality control headquarters, they said, adding that personnel in charge of legal affairs will also be assigned there.

It will also increase the number of internal inspections from once a year to four times a year in an effort to improve its vehicle-defect-checking system, they said.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport plans to inspect Toyota's recall section and dealers by the end of the year in order to confirm whether the automaker is implementing the measures, ministry officials told the news agency.

''We would again like to deeply apologise for troubling many people concerning the quality and safety of our products,'' Toyota vice president Masatami Takimoto said at a press conference after presenting the report to the ministry.

In a written instruction issued July 21, the ministry urged Toyota to improve its recall-related operations, saying the automaker has problems in its system of handling vehicle defects, including the lack of close in-house communications, Kyodo News noted.

Police in Kumamoto last month sent papers to prosecutors on the chief of Toyota's quality control department and his two predecessors, accusing them of professional negligence in not recalling Hilux Surf [exported as the 4Runner] sport utility vehicles until an accident occurred in Kumamoto Prefecture in 2004 in which five people were injured.

In the accident, a 1993 Hilux Surf strayed into the opposite lane and collided head-on with a passenger car after its relay rod fractured, causing a loss of steering control.

Kyodo News said the police suspect Toyota knew about the vehicle's defective relay rod, which could crack due to poor structural strength, in 1996, if not earlier.

Toyota had since used modified relay rods but did not recall the vehicles already sold because no serious accident had occurred, according to the police.

Toyota has denied that it did not address the defect in the Hilux Surf for eight years until the accident occurred because it began using the modified rods from 1996, Kyodo News added.

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